Not everyone grows up with two parents. That’s exactly what can be said about the following celebrities. These stars were raised by strong single women who helped shape them into who they are today.
Some of the most famous faces in Hollywood come from single-parent homes. Did you know Julia Roberts and her siblings were basically raised by just their mom? In April 2017, the Oscar-winning actor opened up to People about the death of her mom, Betty Lou Bredemus.
“My mom worked a full-time job and raised three girls pretty much on her own,” the Wonder star said. “My brother [actor Eric Roberts] is older, so he was gone and out of the house. She never showed the strain of it.”
After Roberts became a mother to her three children (twins Hazel and Phinnaeus and son Henry) with Daniel Moder, she appreciated her mom even more. “[When I] had three children under 3 years old, I was like, ‘Mom, how did you do this?’” Roberts recalled to People. ”And instead of saying, ‘Well, you just have to apply yourself and it takes effort,’ she goes, ‘It’s called daycare, honey.’ And I was so appreciative and so grateful she didn’t tell me some sage, bullshit story about what it’s like to be a great mother.”
That’s just one story out of many from celebrities who grew up with an amazing woman guiding them along in this journey called life. Here are a few more.
1. Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera has never been shy about being raised by a single mom, Shelly Loraine, or about being a single mom herself after splitting with Jordan Bratman in 2010. While appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in November 2010, Aguilera said, “More power to single moms and those out there doing it. I was raised by a single mom — I’m a smart girl and I make choices for specific reasons.”
In March, Paper magazine released a candid chat with Aguilera, where she talked about how her mom faced domestic violence and taught her how to be the strong, amazing woman she is today. She said, “I watched my mom have to be submissive, watch her Ps and Qs or she’s gonna get beat up… You can either be, unfortunately, so damaged by it that you take a turn for the worse, or you can feel empowered by it and make choices to never go down that route.” She even told Latina in May 2010 (via Us Weekly), “To remember the chaos that [my mother] went through, the abuse, I don’t know how she did it. But it’s amazing how much you can trick your mind into surviving when you have to.”
2. Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber was raised by his mom, Pattie Mallette, who had the singer when she was just 17. Despite the two facing ups and downs, like many mothers and their children do, Bieber still praised Mallette on Mother’s Day 2018 for being an amazing mom. He shared sweet lyrics from Boyz II Men’s “Song for Mama” next to an image of him hugging his mom. Bieber even wrote a song honoring his mom, “Turn to You,” which he released in 2012.
“I wrote a song for my mom. But I’m going to put it out on Mother’s Day,” he told MTV News in May 2012. “[It’s] about the struggles, I say in the song. She had me at, like, the age I am now. [It’s about] just the struggles she went through and how brave she was, and I think the world needed to know that.” In the song, he sings, “You worked two jobs to keep a roof up over our heads/You chose life for me, no you never gave up/I admire you for the strength you instilled in me.”
3. Kanye West
In 2007, Kanye West’s mother, Donda West, died from heart disease after undergoing plastic surgery and while facing “multiple post-operative factors,” according to the L.A. coroner. Kanye had a strong bond with his mom, who raised him as a single mother in Chicago. Donda was a scholar and a college professor who also sat on the chair of the Kanye West Foundation, an educational nonprofit, and acted as the chief executive of West Brands, the parent company of the rapper’s businesses.
The Life of Pablo artist has never been shy about how much he loved his mom and how much he misses her. In October 2008, he told Ellen DeGeneres, “She really supported me, and she always wanted me to be the best that I could be and not get hung up on the small things. So, with her not being here to try and talk me into doing things, I just try to do things she would want me to do.”
4. Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez’s parents split when she was only 5, which affected the actor/singer greatly. But Gomez realizes what a tough job her mom, Mandy Teefey, had, especially since she was a teen mom. “Having me at 16 had to have been a big responsibility,” she said during a June 2011 E! special (via Huffington Post), “My mom gave up everything for me and had, like, three jobs. She supported me, sacrificed her life for me.”
In October 2012, she told Glamour, “It’s because of [my mom] that I can do things on my own. I like being professional. I like showing up on time. I like being good to people, and I know that I’m reflecting her at the end of the day.”
5. Alicia Keys
If there’s one speech that describes how Alicia Keys feels about her mom, Terria Joseph, it’s the one she gave at the Harlem School of the Arts’ 50th anniversary gala in October 2015. “Tonight, this honor here is really all about my mother,” she said. “I can only say… and she’s standing behind me so I can’t even see her… I can only say thank you, and it’ll never, ever be enough.”
Then, she got real. Yes, you might need tissues. The singer continued, “I want to thank her for all the Sundays she played Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington on vinyl. I want to thank her for being my mother, my father, my best friend and my biggest fan — even when nobody knew a thing about me. I want to thank you for being my example of dedication, of loyalty, of determination, of dreams, of compassion, of kindness, reciprocity and womanhood. I want to thank her for everything that I am, because without her, I wouldn’t have the soul that I have, I wouldn’t have the love that I have, the will that I have, the versatility that I have or the strength that I have… Because without you, there would be no me, and that’s actually and artfully.”
6. Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson’s estranged father divorced her mom, Jeanne Taylor, when the American Idol winner was 6. It’s no secret that Clarkson has no relationship with her father. The song “Piece by Piece” is even about him. However, Clarkson is very close with her mom. She credited her mom for giving her the strength to do what she loves during a “Finding Your Voice as a Parent” panel hosted by Today and The Voice in February.
“How I’ve been able to handle this industry and what has been thrown at me, I can’t thank her enough,” Clarkson said. “She was the perfect mom. I don’t think there’s a perfect mom; I think there’s a perfect mom to mold their kids for their situations. I thank my mom every day, because I wouldn’t have been able to handle the criticism and flat-out ‘I hope your baby chokes on its umbilical cord and dies’ tweets. You’re like ‘Have a nice day, God bless.’ My mom was a hard mom. She was like ‘Get up, try again.’ I think it really served me well.”
7. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio has always praised his parents and credited them for helping him get to where he is today. His parents split when he was a toddler, and he truly admires both of them, he has said. After winning a Golden Globe in January 2014, the Revenant actor told Access Online, “I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it weren’t for her, both my parents.” According to the Daily Mail, his mom didn’t have an easy upbringing. She was reportedly born in a German air raid shelter in 1943 and lived the first two years of her life in the hospital due to a broken leg, infection and malnutrition.
She seems like a very strong woman who wanted to give her son the world. DiCaprio also spoke specifically about his mom, Irmelin Indenbirken, with Access Online and said, “She supported this little kid who said, ‘I want to be an actor,’ at 12 years old, which is ridiculous, and she drove me to all these auditions. She’s the only reason I’m able to do what I do.”
After Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter, came out in her son’s song “Smile” from his 2017 album 4:44, their relationship became crystal clear: the rapper loves her immensely and wants her to live a happy life. While chatting with David Letterman on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction in April, Jay-Z gushed about his mom, “For her to sit in front of me and tell me ‘I think I love someone’ — I mean, I really cried. That’s a real story. I cried because I was so happy for her that she was free.”
It’s easy to see where Jay-Z gets his work ethic: from his mom. According to USA Today, she was a New York City comptroller for 30 years. Once she split with the rapper’s father after 13 years of marriage, she pretty much raised Jay-Z and his three siblings all by herself. “Sometimes I took on an extra job as a security guard to make ends meet,” Carter told USA Today. She even worked after Jay-Z started becoming successful. “Jay had a problem with that,” she said. Her kids wanted her to retire, which she did, but she quickly became “bored.” And now, she does work through the Shawn Carter Foundation, of which she is the co-founder and CEO.
9. Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie’s late mother, Marcheline Bertrand, raised the actor and her brother, James Haven, after divorcing Jon Voight when Jolie was only a child. Jolie was also estranged from Voight for most of her life. It’s no secret Jolie had a close bond with Bertrand, who died in 2007 from ovarian cancer. In 2011, Jolie told 60 Minutes, “I will never be as good a mother as she was. I will try my best, but I don’t think I could ever be. She was… she was just grace incarnate. She’s better than me.”
After losing their mother, Jolie and Haven released a statement to People that read, “There are no words to express what an amazing woman and mother she was. She was our best friend.” In May 2017, Jolie expressed to Elle France (via People) how much she wished Bertrand was by her side. “I know how much she would have contributed to their [her grandchildren’s] lives and I am sad they will miss out on that. I would give anything for her to be with me at this time. I’ve needed her. I talk to her often in my mind and try to think what she might say and how she might guide me.”
It’s obvious how much her mom meant to her — and still does.
10. Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato has had a hard life, including dealing with substance abuse, bipolar disorder and bulimia. The “Tell Me You Love Me” singer had to also deal with an abusive father, who died in 2013 from cancer. Thankfully, her mom, Dianna De La Garza, has been by her side. Like her daughter, De La Garza also dealt with substance abuse issues and an eating disorder.
In March 2018, Lovato’s mom released a book, Falling With Wings: A Mother’s Story, and the singer wrote the foreword, which speaks to their relationship. In it, Lovato says, “I’m so proud of my mom for achieving something she’s always wanted to do — tell her story. She’s resilient, inspiring and strong. Because of her journey and strength to overcome the obstacles that she’s faced in her life, she is my hero.”
11. Stephen Colbert
In June 2013, Stephen Colbert’s mom, Lorna Colbert, died at the age of 92. She was an amazing woman who raised 11 children. Her obituary called her “an accomplished artist, a church leader, a businesswoman, a supporter of the arts and a woman whose profound faith was apparent in her daily life.”
Colbert, his siblings and his mother didn’t have an easy life. When Colbert was just 10, his father and two brothers were killed in a plane crash. As the youngest of 11 children, Colbert spent a lot of time with his mom, and they helped each other through the tragedy. “I was there with my mom, she was there for me, and I sort of kept her going. Mom and I used to joke that I raised my mom, because at a certain point it had changed her completely and it changed me completely.”
After her death, Colbert honored his mother on The Colbert Report by saying, “I know it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long. But the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish it; it only magnifies the enormity of the room whose door has now quietly shut.” He added, “When you watch the show, if you like this show, that’s because of everybody who works here, and I’m lucky to be one of them. But when you watch the show and you also like me, that’s because of my mom.”
12. Ryan Gosling
Did you know Ryan Gosling was raised by a single mother? His mom, Donna Gosling, and his older sister pretty much shaped him into the person he is today. He even admitted to the Evening Standard in June 2016, “I think women are better than men. They are stronger. More evolved. You can tell especially when you have daughters and you see their early stages, they are just leaps and bounds beyond boys immediately.” He also said, “I’ve always liked women more. I was brought up by my mother and older sister. I found my way into dance class. My home life now is mostly women. They are better than us. They make me better.”
His 2014 film (and directorial debut) Lost River was actually inspired by his mom and his life growing up with a single mother. “My mom is very beautiful and was a single mom,” he said in May 2015 after a screening of the film, according to the Wisconsin Gazette. “When you’re a kid and you have a single mom, all men feel like wolves. Guys would whistle at her — it was very predatory and threatening. As a kid I felt helpless, so you start to imagine all these [scenarios] where you can do something. You see the world through the filter of your imagination.”
13. Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron has a close connection with her mom, Gerda Martiz. They’re so close, in fact, that Maritz helps Theron co-parent her two children. A defining moment in their lives and relationship was when Maritz shot and killed Theron’s alcoholic father in self-defense.
In July 2017, Theron got real with Howard Stern about the night that changed their lives. “I have an incredible mother… She’s a huge inspiration in my life.” The Oscar-winning actor continued, “She’s never really had therapy. So, a mother who never really had therapy dealing with something like that — trying to get your child out of that. Her philosophy was, ‘This is horrible. Acknowledge that this is horrible. Now make a choice. Will this define you? Are you going to sink or are you going to swim?’ That was it.”
Theron didn’t stop there. She added, “I think both of us have dealt with that night really well. I think both of us still have to deal with the life that we had — and that’s what people don’t really realize. It’s not just about what happened one night.”
14. Ariana Grande
In October 2014, Ariana Grande spoke candidly with The Telegraph, where she opened up about how difficult it was for her when her parents divorced. She also gushed about her mother, Joan Grande, and how she went above and beyond to ensure Grande lived her dream. At 8, the singer got the part of Annie in Annie, and her mom auditioned for a role so Grande wouldn’t be left alone at rehearsals.
“She was Daddy Warbucks’ maid,” Grande revealed. “She had to wear a French maid’s outfit and use a broom. She was like, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing right now… but anything for my daughter.'” The “No Tears Left to Cry” singer thought her mom auditioning for Annie was “the funniest thing that’s ever happened in the history of the world!” She further explained, “Because my mom is a CEO [she runs Hose-McCann Communications], she has her own companies, her own full schedule. They design and manufacture the Marines’ communication equipment — like, [for] the Army and the Navy.”
These moms definitely deserve a medal — and a standing ovation.